Thursday, September 24, 2009

Summing Up The UN Climate Change Summit In NYC

Sep 23: A release from the United Nations (UN) indicates that the Climate Change Summit convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon succeeded in mobilizing political will ahead of a major conference later this year by focusing the attention of world leaders on the urgent need for action on global warming [See WIMS 9/22/09]. The UN said the summit was the "largest-ever high-level gathering on the issue" -- attended by over 100 world leaders -- and was part of Ban’s efforts to mobilize momentum as governments work to "seal the deal" on an ambitious new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions at the UN climate change conference to be held in December in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 7-18.

According to a release, the summit also succeeded in accomplishing another major goal, in that “there was a serious and sustained dialogue between the most vulnerable and the major economies. A UN official said, “It was very striking how much the leaders agreed that they need to agree and can agree in Copenhagen. This was an important recognition by all the leaders present that a deal was possible and that they are going to work very hard to achieve it.”

In addition, a number of important announcements were made, including by Japan, which pledged to slash their emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, and Maldives, which said it intends to become climate-neutral by 2020. One of the biggest outcomes of the day highlighted by the official was that financing finally took centre stage. He said financing is the sine qua non [essential prerequisite condition] of getting a successful deal in Copenhagen. He drew attention to a proposal put on the table for supporting "a minimum of $100 billion per annum over the next decade, which many leaders rallied around. " Leaders also apparently said they were prepared to come together again before Copenhagen, depending on how negotiations go. The Secretary-General said he is prepared to convene such a meeting, if desired.

In a key statement at the Summit, H.E.Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China said his country has adopted and is implementing the National Climate Change Program which includes "mandatory national targets for reducing energy intensity and the discharge of major pollutants, and increasing forest coverage and the share of renewable energy for the period of 2005 through 2010."

China said further that, in the years ahead it will take the following measures: (1) intensify effort to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency and cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by a "notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level." (2) "vigorously develop renewable and nuclear energy" seeking 15% non-fossil fuels by 2020. (3) increase forest carbon sinks by increasing forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels. (4) "step up effort to develop" a green, low-carbon, circular economy and enhance R&D and "climate-friendly technologies."

In a related development, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that a number of groups -- from cities and railways to postal services, industry and civil society organizations -- have pledged to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and promote greener living by joining the UN Climate Neutral Network. UNEP Executive Director-General Achim Steiner said, “The growth of the climate neutral movement around the world is a clear sign that people from all walks of life are committed to solving the climate crisis and bringing about low-carbon economies and societies." Launched in 2008, the UNEP-led Network has close to 100 participants worldwide, including several countries, cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Among the new groups joining forces with the Network are the University of California, Berkeley, and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) located in Bangkok, Thailand, as well as the Universal Postal Union, the International Union of Railways and Japan Airlines.

In a related matter, at a High-level Event on Deforestation in Developing Countries, Ban called for increased funding for the UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) initiative. UN-REDD, launched last September by Ban, compensates developing countries for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The initiative approved $18 million in funding in March, with roughly a third going to anti-deforestation initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Viet Nam. Ban said, “We now need to mobilize further funding for REDD and establish transparent systems to distribute payments and measure results.”

In addition to storing over one trillion tons of the world’s carbon, forests purify water, protect soils, prevent floods and droughts and are home to the majority of the world’s land-based species. At the same time, some 1.6 billion people depend on forests for sustenance and income. Almost 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined -- result from deforestation and degradation of forests.

Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a summary of the UN press conference (click here). Access the statement from China's President (click here). Access a release on the REDD initiative and links to related information (click here). Access the climate Change Summit website for extensive information including all statements and program information (click here). Access links to videos of key speeches, events, statements, etc. for the September 22 and 23 meetings and more from the UN webcast archives (click here).